Facts, rumours and Twitter

Take a look at those paragraphs to the right of this page. They come under the heading ‘External News’. They provide quick links to stories that the editors of BfB think might be of interest to the readership.

Now take another look at the links that are on this page as I write. One says that a goalkeeper from Tottenham is rumoured to be joining City because Hansen will not be allowed to play at Leeds. Another link is headed ‘Liam Moore announces he is going to join City’ and clicking on the link brings you to Moore’s Twitter page. Go down a little further and there is a story, under ‘more external news’, because it was posted last week, to the effect that Martin Hansen ‘is to arrive at City on loan tomorrow, or so it is said’.

I use these three stories merely to illustrate that BfB is not in the habit of reporting as fact stories about players coming to the club, when those players have not yet signed on the proverbial dotted line. Further, BfB goes to some lengths to make clear that these items of external news are ‘rumours’ or what someone else has announced, which is a fact in itself, when you can read it on a social network. The fact that Moore announced this did not make it true at the time and BfB did not claim it was true then.

I make this point by way of contrast with two recent items on the club website, both of which make clear the extent to which the club is upset either by rumours or by the inability of some people to distinguish rumours from fact, resulting in implied criticism when the club is not quick to report these ‘facts’. The first of these items was about the same Liam Moore and went to some length to say that he hadn’t actually signed until Friday (the day the item was posted), contrary to stories that he had signed on an earlier day.

It is the second item on the club website that troubles me more. It isn’t about any particular player. It is headed ‘Dealing in fact, not rumours’. It was posted on Sunday and, in my ignorance I took it to be either a follow-up to the remarks made in the Moore news or an explanation for why the club had not reported anything about the Tottenham goalkeeper. Either way, it looked as if the club was reacting to criticism, implied or actual, from fans that they were not being kept up to date with the ‘facts’ at Valley Parade.

Since then, via another Twitter feed or two, I gather that the latest rumour is about a player leaving, so now I’m guessing that the new piece on the club website was probably provoked by criticism that the club had not reported that ‘fact’.

I’m all for these social networks and message boards, just so long as they’re not compulsory. I haven’t joined any. I don’t have a Facebook page. I don’t have a blog. Maybe I should have a website, but I’ll talk to an expert (he’s reading this) about that another time. But I can see how these methods of communication can be great fun and provoke endless interest. So I’m not knocking them.

I don’t think the club is knocking them either. I just think the club wants to make clear that they don’t report ‘facts’ until they are facts, if you see what I mean. Two cheers for the club, then. But not quite a third cheer.

Let’s use Liam Moore again as an example. He tweeted that he was going to sign. He hadn’t signed then. He was at that point a Leicester player and no other club had any rights over him whatsoever. When he signed the loan agreement, City’s rights became a fact and were reported as such. Only then did the club comment on the status of player who, until then, had belonged entirely to another club. That seems to me to be the right way of doing business. The same principle applies about players who might or might not be leaving. I wouldn’t expect another club to say publicly that one of our players ‘was going to sign’ for them. Neither should our club, then, say that the same player ‘is going to sign’ for another club. We all know potential signings that have never happened. Let’s wait until it happens.

But the reason I can’t give the club three whole cheers lies in the mere fact that they have, not once, but twice, made a point about their policy. If this is intended to head off further criticism of not revealing ‘facts’ as early as other sources report them, then I suppose it might have that effect. I wouldn’t be holding my breath, though. I would have preferred that the club and those who criticise just accept the difference between something that finally becomes a fact, to be compared with rumours, reports and what others might put on social networking sites.

The club, in my view, would have done better not making an issue of this. Let’s be really professional and say nothing. Let’s not come over as prickly, as a bit on the precious side, as responding sharply to unjustified criticism. Those who prefer rumours must recognise them for what they are, regardless of the reliability of the source, and stop complaining that the club doesn’t repeat them until they are confirmed. But, if there are continuing complaints that the club does not deal in rumours, surely the club is big enough to shrug off that particular criticism.

Maybe the key is to accept that the club website is not another social networking site and has to be controlled in a manner those sites do not. That way we might all get on in peace.

Where Do The Good Times Start When The Fans Contact The Club Once A Year?

Today I got a message on my Facebook page – yes dear reader even the bloke what does BfB wastes time on Facebook – talking to me about trying to help City reach the 9,000 mark for season ticket sales. Have a visit and think about how City are using modern media to promoted the club which is welcome and a turn away from the face of most football clubs.

On Saturday I stood under canopy at Valley Parade at midday queuing for the single window of the ticket office to renew my season ticket and as each of the six or seven people in front of me were processed slowly. It was not cold and there was no wind whipping past the ticket office. The queue moved slowly but this was understandable because applications that go beyond the simple take time and the one guy processing them was working as fast as he could but in the end he is still one guy.

“I hope this is a simple one,” he commented as I got to the front and it was and I left having queued for a long time that kept within the limited of what could be called acceptable – probably because I was not too cold or too wet – and went on my way and my issue is not that I felt like I had been treated badly just that I did not feel as if I had been treated well.

The largest club superstore is attached to the ticket office. It is big, it is warm, it is empty – more or less – and in my head I picture a sofa with a coffee pot waiting for you as you go through the details of your application opposite the same man who rather than having to shout through a glass wall is opposite with a laptop in front of him entering information. I imagine the kids that were wandering around me outside watching the TV screens of the Manchester United game or browsing for products. I imagine a much more welcoming experience of renewing a season ticket.

For this May ritual of renewal is – for many people – the only contact with the club outside of a match day environment and while it is very typical of the rest of the game it is hardly something that one would relish and perhaps the club that lead the way in season ticket pricing might look at the way that tickets are renewed.

The day of treating all football supporters as if they are potentially violent thugs one must be separated from by sheets of glass are surely behind us and with so much space available to the club and understanding the unique nature of this contact between club and fan could more effort not be made to make a better experience?

A comfy place to sit while you are dealt with and a warm environment around you is going to make for a more pleasant half hour than one current enjoys when making the once yearly contact. The club that led the way on customer pricing can also start to make moves on customer service. I’ve no complaints with how I was treated when getting my season ticket but with some care and attention it could go from necessary evil to a comfortable, rich and enjoyable way of the club saying Hi to its main backers once a year.

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